Farmers, buyers, sellers and other stakeholders in the production and export of yard long beans will come together in a major workshop from September 1 to 3, 2015, aimed at strengthening that agricultural sector and increasing exports.

The CALIDENA workshop is a collaboration of the Suriname Standards Bureau (SSB), the CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ) and the International Technical Co-operation Section of the German National Metrology Institute - Physikalisch- Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB) and will be held at Medisch Wetenschappelijk Instituu (MWI) in Paramaribo, Suriname.

The CALIDENA methodology is a demand-driven approach which assesses and diagnoses quality infrastructure issues at each level in a value chain, with the aim of increasing competitiveness. Value chains in the CALIDENA project must satisfy set criterion such as real opportunities for export, experience and advances in chaining, diverse quality services, participation of SMEs in the chain, conscious need to improve the chain and motivation of stakeholders to dedicate time and resources.

In the case of Suriname, the country identified yard long beans as the agricultural product with significant potential for export. Stakeholders in this sector completed a Feasibility stage to assess its eligibility to participate in the project, which led to this second – Diagnostic stage in the form of a workshop to identify, promote concrete actions and improve the quality services of the chain.

Director of the Suriname Standards Bureau, Mrs. Ingrid de Bel-Simson noted that this was a great opportunity for the bureau to hear from the stakeholders and also assess the services the organisation offers and what it needs to do to assist in making the sector more competitive, as well as alerting the public about the capabilities of the SSB.

 

At the end of the workshop will be an action plan to identify the steps necessary to make Suriname’s yard long beans more competitive on the regional and international markets.

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The shrimp industry in Belize is this week more certain of the way forward to addressing some of its challenges and how the Belize Bureau of Standards (BBS) can help producers, processers and distributors improve quality and possibly increase exports.

This follows an intensive three-day CALIDENA Diagnostic workshop that was the result of collaboration on the shrimp industry between the BBS, its regional umbrella body – the CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ) and funders, the International Technical Cooperation Department of the German Metrology Institute (PTB).

The CALIDENA methodology under the CROSQ-implemented and PTB-funded project – Establishment of a Demand-Oriented and Regionally Harmonized Quality Infrastructure in the Caribbean (RQI 4), has been focussed on improving the quality infrastructure in agriculture-related value chains among the CROSQ Member States. The term “value chain” is based on the concept that the value of a product is created at various stages in production, and looks at all the steps from creation to market, as well as the relationships behind the companies involved in developing the product.

Belize is one of four countries in the second round of the RQI4 project to be chosen for the strengthening of a value chain, and the country chose its shrimp industry.

The workshop ran from August 5 – 7, 2015, at the George Price Centre in Belmopan, and concluded with a trip to the Belize Agriculture Limited (BAL) shrimp processing plant in Placencia, in the south of Belize. Approximately 20 participants spent the first day of the workshop learning about quality infrastructure and the history of the shrimp industry, conducting analyses of the state of the industry. The second day examined the legislations and regulations central to the shrimp value chain’s operation in Belize, regionally and internationally, while the third day examined a real operation and a GAP analysis of the industry, with a committee being formed to spearhead actions to closing the gaps and correcting the deficiencies found.

By the end, the group had identified challenges pertaining to technical regulations and inspection; standards and certification; laboratory and accreditation services; and metrology and calibration services. Among the needs found in technical regulations and inspection were – inspection services; standards and certification recommended frequent monitoring by a certification body, training in quality systems; in laboratory and accreditation services – an accredited laboratory facility, communication with and among stakeholders, particularly the Belize Agricultural Health Authority (BAHA) and the BBS, training of auditors, and they wanted services in temperature and the calibration of scales as well as accreditation of calibration services to help facilitation of trade in the metrology and calibration area.

These and other needs were outlined in the action plan that is devised at the end of such CALIDENA diagnostics, and in addition to identifying persons to sit on the implementation committee, they also determined why these were the challenges they found with QI services, how these challenges could be addressed and by whom, along with timelines.

The committee is now set to meet before the end of the month to begin plotting how it will implement some of the actions decided on during the Diagnostic workshop.

Director of the BBS, Mr. Jose Trejo expressed thanks for the intervention into the shrimp value chain and noted that the bureau was excited and looking forward to the implementation process of the actions decided.

President of the Belize Shrimp Growers Association, Mr. Alvin Henderson said: "I think (the CALIDENA) has brought a lot of clarity to something that is increasingly urgent for us as a country. About two months ago I raised the issue with BAHA about the need for us to have an accredited lab and it is moreso urgent now."

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The Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB)’s Central Laboratory has made history by becoming the first laboratory in Guyana to become accredited to the International Standards Organisation’s ISO/IEC 17025 standard. The ISO standard is used by laboratories in developing their management system for quality, administrative and technical operations. Laboratory customers, regulatory authorities and accreditation bodies may also use it in confirming or recognizing the competence of laboratories.

By earning this standard, the GRBD has achieved several significant milestones including becoming the first laboratory in the region to have:

  •  attained accreditation through the CARTFund, the Caribbean Aid for Trade and Regional Integration Trust Fund financed by the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID)
  • been assisted towards achieving accreditation by the Guyana National Bureau of Standards (GNBS) functioning as the National Accreditation Focal Point (NAFP)
  • become accredited outside of Jamaica utilising the Jamaica National Agency for Accreditation (JANAAC)
  • earned accreditation through the Caribbean Cooperation for Accreditation (CCA) Scheme created by the CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ).

The Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), a partner in the CARTFund Project, noted that the accreditation was a particularly gratifying step, and a very important achievement for the Project.

“A major constraint to trade and market access, even where tariffs have been eliminated, is the ability to comply with sanitary and phytosanitary standards and quality requirements”, said Edward Greene, Division Chief, Technical Cooperation Division of the Caribbean Development Bank.   “The Accreditation of the GRDB Central Laboratory means that the rice sector in Guyana now has access to accredited testing services. This is a significant milestone in the development of the value chain of the Rice subsector in Guyana”.

CROSQ’s CEO, Mr. Deryck Omar shared the view that this was an excellent example of countries supporting each other using specialised expertise and resources.

“This accreditation demonstrates functional regional integration as together each achieves more.  It is a positive development to see how the expertise of JANAAC was brought to bear in supporting Guyana in this process. The CCA Scheme has several advantages as conformity assessment bodies receive coaching, training and development assistance towards achieving accreditation. We find this approach to be economical and practical,” said Mr. Omar.

Permanent Secretary in Guyana’s Ministry of Agriculture, Mr. George Jervis further described the achievement of the accreditation as auspicious, because GRDB is the country’s lead agency in agriculture.

“Prior to this certification, the Guyana Rice Development Board was tasked with sending samples for testing to the USA, which roughly took two weeks for results. Today, we no longer have to take this route. Being ISO/IEC certified is a useful tool which will add credibility by demonstrating that rice coming out of Guyana meets the expectations of our buyers”, he said, reading a prepared speech from the Honourable Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Noel Holder.

The accreditation process began under the project in 2014 and was accelerated with receipt of a grant of US$522,401 from the CARTFund.

The objective of the CARTFund project is to strengthen the capabilities of testing laboratories in CARIFORUM Member States to provide reliable, competent, internationally recognised and affordable testing services to exporters. CROSQ and the CDB are the implementing partners for the Project.

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The private sector in the Dominican Republic is excited about opportunities to harmonise standards in that country, with those of CARICOM.

A recent mission by the CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ) to the Dominican Republic which involved discussions with INDOCAL, the Dominican Republic Standards Organisation and the private sector, highlighted various opportunities for harmonisation of trade standards, which is the process by which agreed product and service quality-related specifications are aligned across nations.

Chairman of CROSQ, Mrs. Anthea Ishmael told the large gathering during the three days of consultations and discussion that the harmonisation activity was based on the Free Trade Agreement between the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Dominican Republic which was signed in 1998; and of which the implementing protocol was signed in 2001. 

“The fundamental objective of the Agreement,” she noted, “was to strengthen commercial and economic relations between the Parties through a number of initiatives, including - the establishment of a Free Trade Area between the Parties consistent with the Marrakesh Agreement establishing the World Trade Organization (the WTO), and, the promotion and expansion of the sale of goods originating in the territories of the Parties, elimination of non-tariff barriers to trade, and the establishment of  a system of Rules of Origin, Customs Co-operation and the Harmonization of Technical, Sanitary and Phyto-sanitary procedures.”

“As the CARICOM organization with the responsibility for assisting with the dismantling of Technical Barriers to Trade through strengthening of regional quality infrastructure institutions, CROSQ has been developing and implementing strategies to support the objectives of the Agreement stated previously. One such initiative is within the 10th EDF (European Development Fund) programme ‘Support of the Forum of Caribbean States in the implementation of the commitments undertaken under the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA)’.”

An outcome of this programme is the harmonization of standards between the Caribbean Community, represented by CROSQ and the Dominican Republic, represented by INDOCAL.  Five standards have been chosen . . .,” the chair said, commending the parties involved for their commitment to the process thus far.

She further underscored the importance of the role the private sector would play in the process, noting, “My presence here today, as the Chairperson of CROSQ, is to demonstrate CROSQ’s commitment to, and support for, this activity.  INDOCAL has also demonstrated its commitment by organizing and hosting this dialogue with you the stakeholders, who will be the principal beneficiaries of the outcomes.  Your support is therefore critical to the realization of these objectives, and the many benefits to be derived.

President of INDOCAL, Mr. Manuel Guerrero likewise stated the importance of the initiative with the Dominican Republic.

“The major result of this important activity [is to] achieve the greatest amount of standards harmonisation to the greatest possible extent; [that] standardising institutions participate fully and adequately, within the limits of its resources, in the preparation by international institutions with relevant standardisation activities . . .

Regional institutions involved [must] also make every effort to achieve a national consensus on the standards they develop. Likewise, the regional standardising institution should make every effort to avoid duplication or rework of international institutions with relevant standardisation activities,” said the president.

CROSQ’s Technical Officer – Standards, Mr. Fulgence St. Prix hailed the two days of discussions extremely successful and thanked the European Union, noting that even after the official stakeholders’ consultation  had ended,  members of the private sector kept  enquiring about other specific standards they would like to see harmonised.

 

Among the standards discussed for harmonisation are: Mangoes; Bananas; Labelling of Goods - General Principles; Labelling of Goods – Pre-packaged Goods; Specification for Toilet Tissue; Specification for Cement and Specification for Rum.

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Twenty-one (21) persons in the region are now qualified to administer the CALIDENA methodology on value chains.

This is through a CALIDENA “Train the Trainer” workshop held at the Barcelo Hotel in Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic in December. The objective was to train local facilitators to administer the methodology to develop action plans which would address issues specific to the value chains in seven countries. Those countries and chains were:

1.       Antigua and Barbuda – honey/wax

2.       Belize – shrimp

3.       Dominican Republic – honey

4.       St Kitts Nevis – breadfruit/breadnut

5.       St Lucia – seamoss

6.       Suriname – yard long beans

7.       Trinidad and Tobago – cocoa.

With this training, the workshop participants, who included value chain representatives, national standards bureaus and consultants, are now qualified to aid with the improvement of the quality of goods in the respective value chains, as well as making those value chains more competitive.

The term “value chain” is based on the concept that the value of a product is created at various stages in production, and looks at all these steps from creation to market, to human resources, research and development, as well as the relationships behind the companies involved in developing the product. CALIDENA is a component of the CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ)-implemented, and the National Metrology Institute of Germany, Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB)–funded, Establishment of a Demand-Oriented and Regionally Harmonized Quality Infrastructure in the Caribbean Project, more commonly known as the RQI4.

The training began with opening remarks by Director of Pro CALIDAD, the host organisation, Ms. Claribel Lopez, who welcomed participants to the Dominican Republic and explained to them the functions of her organisation. Project Coordinator with CROSQ, Ms. Janice Hilaire, highlighted the role of CROSQ in trade competitiveness through improvements in quality infrastructure, its relationship with PTB and the role of the RQI 4 Project and how interactions with participants will progress over the three stages (feasibility, diagnostic and follow-up) of administering of the methodology.

The training involved a set of activities structured to give insight into quality infrastructure, value chain analysis and how CALIDENA incorporates the two to achieve its objectives. The trainer, Dr. Ulrich Harmes- Liedkte, also explained the importance of card facilitation to the effectiveness of delivery, and provided detailed insight into the CALIDENA methodology. 

An important component of the training was a field trip to an apiary and honey processing plant so participants could observe the practices as related to quality infrastructure of these institutions. The visit allowed participants to pull together the learning of the previous days and critically assess what exists in terms of quality infrastructure and the existence of gaps. Emphasis was placed on the preparation of action plans and how participants can go about prioritising activities for inclusion in the plan. Participants began the planning of their road map for administering the methodology for the selected value chains in their countries.

 

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The Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) has adopted two regional standards – both of which have been in development for a number of years.

The region now has a common Specification for Cement, and a Code of Practice for Organic Production and Processes, both of which have been hailed as major developments by the CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ).

“We’ve had a number of problems with trading of cement in the region of late, and so CARICOM through the COTED requested that a regional standard be developed for cement. The standard has been under development from as far back as 2007 and we finally got consensus throughout the Member States for the adoption of the regional cement standard,” said CROSQ’s Technical Officer – Standards, Mr. Fulgence St. Prix.

He noted though that because standards by nature are voluntary, he hoped that Member States would now put the necessary legislative framework in place to cause mandatory adoption of the standard which would cause all cement traded within the community to meet the requirements of this regional standard.

“In other words, we are looking to see if it can be the subject of a technical regulation and if that is the case then it means that no cement not meeting that standard will be able to enter any of the Member States. That is the intention.”

This issue is historic, not only because of the length of time it has taken to get to this point, but because of the methodology involved in its development.

“The standards development process calls for consensus and it was challenging in the sense that you have Member States using different standards. For instance, in Suriname and Haiti the standards they would have used to produce cement would have been based on the European standard, and the other Member States would have been using the ASTM Standards. So you needed to get some form of equivalence between the two standards and that is where we had the challenge, being able to strike a balance between the two standards. Although you might have similarities between the two standards, the European Standard and the ASTM standard, you would have to establish equivalence because they were more or less not the same.

“What we did to overcome the challenges, we adopted a new modality in terms of the standards development – first time we have ever done that – where we just referenced those international standards to be used. So cement conforming to those international standards would have been deemed to conform to that regional standard, and thus we would have been able to take care of the manufacturers who use the European standards and the ASTM standards.”

The technical officer said with this new approach, the possibility existed for this modality to be used in future standards’ development, further expressing thanks to the technical officers of the numerous national standards bureaus, as well as their directors, who worked to get the standard approved.

“The other standard we got acceptance for was a Code of Practice for Organic Production and Processes. It was part of an IDB SME project where the industry was asking for a code of practice because organic production is something new in the region and people are recognising  the immense opportunity in that area.”

The standard, which is based on the CODEX Alimentarius standard code of practice for organic foods, went through numerous revisions from as far back as 2009 to encompass organic food production and the processes as well.

Mr. St. Prix noted: “I know a number of the Member States do have an organic farming community and associations and they are all affiliated to the international organic farming community. So we did have an international organic organisation commenting on the standard and making their input on the standard. So we feel happy about that because at the end of the day it means that it will be accepted by the international community as well.”

It is hoped now that this code of practice can be used by the farming communities in Member States as a tool for certification.

 

“It also means that an organic production and processes certification can be developed using that standard. What we need to do now is develop further relationships with a certification body which offers certification of these products. We are hoping we can do it regionally and I know Jamaica was very interested in going that way in establishing a certification scheme and I will recommend that we work alongside them to develop a regional organic production and processes certification scheme, where the certification can be provided by regional certification bodies who are working towards international recognition. So once the certification bodies have attained the requisite international recognition we could soon have our organic products be on the world market thereby providing much needed income to our farmers and our economies by extension,” Mr. St. Prix concluded.

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